Everyone gets a little introspective late at night. That’s why I used to like having sleepovers, because I knew those were the times my friends and I would really bond. These days I’m getting too old to stay up late talking. Look, it’s only eleven thirty and already I feel like I ought to have gone to bed two hours ago–which might be true.
There’s a long entry coming up sometime in the next week, because I’m moving into my new apartment this weekend. I’ll be posting a description of the place and of the moving-in process, along with before and after photos.
Deep Thought(s) No. 1
I would say I’ve been doing a lot of thinking in the past couple of weeks, except I haven’t; it’s more like I’ve been doing a lot of pointless anxious worrying in my efforts not to think too much or too deeply. I don’t do that often–usually I prefer to confront my worries, and honestly, FDR was mostly right when he said there’s nothing to fear but fear itself–but the timing just isn’t good to be doing a lot of soul-searching right now. I wasn’t going to write about this, but I just read a friend’s journal entry about her recent life revelations and it was such an honest (if guarded) entry, I felt like I should share too.
I’ve been wondering if going to grad school is the right thing to do right now.
It’s not that I’m so firmly convinced that it’s wrong, it’s just that I’m not feeling so sure that it’s right. And as Michael told me a year ago when I decided to apply, “because I don’t know what else I would do” is never the right reason. I do know I don’t want to work an office job. And I know I want to make a difference in some way. I’m just not feeling so certain anymore that being a history professor, or at least a history Ph.D., is the right way.
I was telling Erik, the way I’ve felt about history up to this point is like your first big crush. Everyone has a love like this: you fall completely for someone or something not for its own merits, but because of who or what you think it is. I saw myself being a professor for the most superficial reasons, living in a happy high-minded academic world. And because so few people really understand the way I think, or perhaps because I come across as so sure of myself, no one thought to say anything to make me see otherwise. I did not fully realize until recently that academia, like everything, is tainted with politics and competition and ambition, and that despite the rare glories it is probably, day in and day out, as dreary as any other job. School is starting in one week and I haven’t even set foot on campus yet, not even to see what it’s like. I’m just not excited about it at all. The passion isn’t there anymore. Fondness is, but fondness isn’t enough to get anyone through years of hard study. Fondness is for hobbies.
A good thing about being in this position–disillusioned at the start of grad school–is that now I get the chance to experience the field of history as it truly is, without any expectations. I’m prepared to discover for myself whether this relationship (to sustain the metaphor, which I hate doing, sorry) is worth the commitment, or whether I want to break up and try to meet someone else. I think I’m actually prepared to work harder this way, oddly. Maybe it’s that I now know that if I decide to stick with this in the long run, it’ll be a real commitment to the bad times as well as the good, and not just a fling I’m having because it’s fun.
A lot of what I’ve learned in the past year has involved my facing up to my fears and just jumping in and doing. “Trial by fire” is what one stranger said upon learning about my experience learning to drive in LA. I think it’s a good method. So that’s what I’m planning to do when school starts. I’ll jump in with my eyes shut, and I fully expect to swim.
Jackie and I were talking over AIM tonight and we think someone should hold classes to teach you all the real life skills you need to know. Here’s what we think should be on the curriculum:
-how to dial an extension (like when someone’s number is 555/555-5555 ext. 5)
-whom you should tip, and how much
-how to pump gas
-how to read a map
-how to tell whether you might have cancer (for those times when you wake up at 3 am and you just know you’re going to die because your stomach hurts or your leg itches)
-how to fend off a raccoon attack (one of Jackie’s contributions–from personal experience maybe??)
I mentioned it to Maggie and we came up with some more:
-how to ask someone for their number
-what do cool people do at clubs/parties?
-how to smile/stand for pictures
-how to give a good back rub
-how to change a diaper
There have got to be so many more of these we haven’t come up with yet. Send me yours!
Deep Thought(s) No. 2
I’ll end on some thoughts that have been in my mind a lot recently. These are my theory on love.
If you love someone for all the right reasons, if they also love for the right reasons, then they must love you back.
Then, if you love someone for all the right reasons, and you’re committed to them, and if they love you back for the same reasons and are also committed to you, then you’ve got a winner.
Now don’t go asking me what the right reasons are. I don’t know them all. But I do know they’d have to cover a lot of things. Love is complicated, and commitment even more so, and trying to make the two work together is a strange and wondrous thing.
I believe that at any given point there are multiple people out there who are “right” for you, based on personality and likes/dislikes. And I believe that you could easily build a meaningful relationship with any one of them, but that each of those relationships would differ substantially from the others. Every relationship you have makes you into a slightly different person, and there’s a different kind of happiness to be found with each individual. That’s why I’m convinced there’s no such thing as The One. There is not just one perfect person out there waiting to find you and waiting to be found by you. But I don’t think we should all just abandon monogamy and try out as many relationships as possible. The way I see it, when you meet someone who seems right, it’s because you complement each other’s person and life in a way that’s apropos for the moment. As time goes on, two things can happen. One, one (or both) of you changes so that it’s no longer true that you fit each other perfectly. When that happens, the best thing to do is admit it and move on. The other thing that can happen is that you grow together in the same direction, so that with the passage of time you complement each other better and better until your lives are completely intertwined. At that point, no matter how many faults you know about the other person, no matter how many illusions have been dropped along the way, you know you could no longer live without them any more than you could live without a part of yourself.
Finding and staying with the right person has a lot to do with commitment and not just love. Because there will always be times when other people seem more interesting or more right for you. Sometimes it may be true that you’d prefer to grow in a direction that your partner wouldn’t, and then you’re no longer complementary. But I think if you could somehow see a map of all your possible relationships, and follow them all out to their conclusions, you’d find that eventually you’d hit that same point with most of them: there is always someone else out there that you could be happy with in a different way. And that’s where commitment and shared history come in.
I want to explain this more clearly but it’s now almost one and I’ve been writing for an hour and a half. So I’ll just end with this. I think finding a love that will last is as much about choice as it is about passion. You know that this person is right for you now, you think they’ll be right for you later, but at the same time you know there are other possibilities out there. But you can’t try them all, so you just have to make a choice to either commit to one person or not. Because once you’ve moved on, you begin to build a new shared history with that new person, and you can’t ever go back to where you were before. My friend Leah told me that she went to a relative’s seventy-fifth wedding anniversary, and when he was asked the secret to staying married for so long, he replied simply, “Don’t get divorced.” I think that’s a pretty big part of it. Love each other, and stick with it.
I don’t really know where I was going with all of this, but I am now totally sleepy.
[This post was imported on 4/10/14 from my old blog at satsumabug.livejournal.com. In rereading this post in 2014 I’m struck by the enormous parallel between my “not sure about grad school” musings and the “love and commitment” thoughts, which I never noticed until now!]